Thermal pollution enters Yankee uprate debate

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(Host) A Connecticut River environmental group is worried about Vermont Yankee’s plan to boost the power output of the 31-year-old nuclear reactor. The Public Service Board holds additional hearings next week on the proposal. The Connecticut River Watershed Council is concerned that Yankee’s plan to use river water to cool the reactor could hurt aquatic life downstream.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Yankee’s owners need both state and federal approval for the power increase plan. They recently filed a detailed application with the U.S. Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission. On Monday, the state review picks up again with new hearings before the Vermont Public Service Board.

David Deen works for the Connecticut River Watershed Council. He wants the state to require Yankee to reduce power if the plant cooling system malfunctions and the hot water discharge exceeds certain limits.

(Deen) “Their discharge temperature could be as high as 114 degrees. That’s a lot of hot water to put into the Connecticut River. And what we have asked for is that the Certificate of Public Good – which is what they are seeking from the Public Service Board – be conditioned that that procedure is no longer voluntary.”

(Dillon) Yankee’s lawyers have asked the board not to allow Deen’s testimony. But Deen says the issue of thermal pollution is relevant to the board’s review. He says state law requires the Public Service Board to review the project’s impact on the water quality and other environmental criteria.

(Deen) “If you have 24 hour of high temperature, over 100 degree temperature discharges in the Connecticut River, that’s not good for any aquatic species.”

(Dillon) But Yankee Spokesman Rob Williams says the plant won’t significantly raise the river temperature downstream. And he says the plant will reduce power if its starts to discharge too much hot water.

(Williams) “We can operate the plant in an uprated condition and still stay within the limits, the present limits that are imposed on our operation by the state.”

(Dillon) According to Williams, the state will benefit if the Yankee plant is allowed to boost its power output.

(Williams) “To put it in perspective, this power we intend to produce from this uprate is 110 megawatts and that’s about four times the output of the Vernon hydro station. And that’s all without new construction of a plant, or dam, or gas lines or smokestacks.”

(Dillon) The Public Service Board hearings will hold three hearings next week. The board has scheduled another round of hearings for October.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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